I was not looking to get a new card, but Household Bank insisted so much that I applied and got it. I barely used that Mastercard, and most of the time, had a zero balance on the credit card - even when I used it, I paid off the balance. In other words, I was never late on payments.
Eventually I misplaced the card inside the house, and never even bothered to call for a new one. I was surprised when I got a bill from the card issuer, with a $15.00 dollar charge, and a late payment fee of $30.00. I called them, and I confirmed the charge from an Internet service I had signed up a few months, recognizing a recurring charge. I spoke to the rep that I had never gotten the bill, and asked for waiver of the late payment, which he agreed to. We worked out an arrangement, whereby I would send the payment with the late fee, so it would not appear as if I was late again. I then inquired about the APR, and he assured me that it would not be changed.
Much to my surprise, the next month I get a bill reflecting my payment, and late fee waiver, but my APR was raised to almost 30%. I immediately called, and protested, on the grounds that I was late a single time, even the late fee was waived, and I was emphatically told the APR would not be changed. The account representatives, all of whom seemed to lack any type of authority, were adamant the 30% APR would stand.
I then asked to cancel the credit card. The one thing the rep knew how to do was insist that I should not cancel the card, that their 'specialists' would review my account, etc. I responded that either he made good on the earlier promise, right there and then, or I just wanted a cancellation. I have no time or patience for games.
In my case, no damage was done. I could simply cancel the card because I had no outstanding balance, in fact Household Bank owed me $14.00!!! Most banks, and I suppose Household, promise not to change APRs unless there are two late payments in the course of a 12-month period, which was not my case. Then the account rep tells me on the phone they can raise the APR at will.
In other words, if I owed the bank $7,500, I would be stuck with roughly a $2,500 interest bill per year, because the bank apparently does not follow its own policies. I would be quite stuck.
Do yourself a favor - don't do business with them. Don't say I didn't warn you.
In time. Household Bank is part of HSBC.
By Carlos De Paula
A look at most people’s postal boxes these days would give impression that banks are giving away money. If you have good to fair credit, you get tons of credit card offers. If have a crummy credit rating, you are still getting offers, many with life saving low APR balance transfers. Even if you have just filed for bankruptcy, you will still get less savory offers, but they will be there.
It is very easy to have enough credit corresponding a few times your annual salary. These offers are often quite appealing, with zero to 3.9% APRs, great offers on balance transfers, and often banks raise your credit limit within 6 months, if you pay your credit cards on time.
Sounds good, after all, at zero percent you cannot go wrong. It is money given away!
Not so fast. When you sign a credit card application, you normally believe you have a contract set in stone. Just like any other contract, you believe, any changes would need to be agreed by both parties, in advance, and should be negotiable. Guess what, credit card companies, as a normal course of business, amend the contracts unilaterally, without asking your permission and without negotiation. If you use the card again, you are agreeing with the change!
These changes normally have to do with the appealing APRs that first prompted you to get the card and instruments whereby banks can increase them punitively. Back in the old days, if you were late on credit card payments you would get a nice call, the day after the payment was due. And a nastier one 10 days after. I suppose banks eventually figured that most people were normally late due to an honest oversight, sooner or later, and thus the rules of the game were changed. Initially, banks began charging late fees, which often amount to more than 30 dollars, every month you are late. You would no longer get a call, just a $30.00 bill on the next statement.
Adding insult to injury, if you do have quite a few bills to pay, eventually you might be late a couple of times a year. So the banks perceived, I guess. Now, if you are late at least twice in the course of a consecutive 12-month period, the bank can increase your APR, on the ground that you have just become a little bit of a higher risk. So, your appealing zero percent credit card, suddenly becomes a 12 %, then an 18%, until becoming a ridiculous 30% APR credit card.
By that point, you might be trying to shift credit card balances to new offers, and thus try to manage your APR crisis. Guess what. A lot of credit card companies have a policy of obtaining your credit report every once in a while, and you might have an immaculate record with them, never been late a single time in 20 years, but the fact that you goofed with bank “X”, which is in no way affiliated with them, gives them ground to hike up your APR. All of a sudden you are no longer one of the their best clients: it does not matter that you shifted a $5,500.00 balance to their appealing 6.7% APR last month. Your new APR is now 18%, more than the 16.7% of the card you shifted from!
And the story goes on, and on. By the time you are through with them (which might be never in most cases), you have an unmanageable debt, all done lawfully.
You might ask, why do banks lend out such huge mounds of money to people they know will not ever pay the full balance, because they are incapable of sustaining such high debt load? And why do so with unsecured credit, in other words, based on a promise to pay, without any collateral? We might instinctively believe that the amount of deposits a bank holds gives it “value”. Our instincts are wrong. The reality is that in accounting, the deposits are considered a liability. Why so? Because the bank has to pay the deposit back. So what gives a bank real “value”, is put it simply, assets, are operations that will generate money for it, among them, loans.
Although secure loans are safe, they generate a little spread (the difference between the cost of money to the bank, and the interest paid by the borrower). The real bucks are in unsecured credit, such as credit cards. Additionally, not only are there big bucks in unsecured credit, but also “big fat”.
In this day and age of mega bank mergers, banks have to prove they are good prospective partners by the sheer volume of loans on their portfolios - the fat. Not only that, it does not matter for a bank that you are only paying the minimum due every month. If you that, you are giving them profit, which is what they need to build fat for potential mergers, and build value in their balance sheets, wherefrom big year-end bonus will come for management. Really, a 65 year old bank president cares less if you are still going to be paying your credit card 20 years from then, he wants his bonus now! So, in a nutshell, the “system” serves them well, even if they know an “x” number of people will eventually file for bankruptcy or simply stop paying the bills.
Some folks have taken the position that bankruptcy might be a good way to “get back at the system”, essentially becoming professional Chapter 7 filers. However, the bankruptcy laws have been changed, and the general opinion is that the new law will not make life easier for debtors. Using bankruptcy “to get back at the system” is indeed a thing of the past.
So, my advice to you is, keep the number of credit cards you have to a minimum. If you can, pay off your entire balance at the end of the month. If you can’t, never pay only the minimum due. If at all possible, don’t get any store credit cards, which always have high APRs from the start, and which are generally more aggressive collectors. Use the old system of saving money to make major purchases and never exceed a year’s income in credit card debt. Don’t let the situation get out of hand: consolidating your debt might be a good idea, and always do it sooner, rather than later.
YOU CANNOT WIN THE CREDIT CARD ROULETTE. DON’T TRY IT.
It seems that scams are the order of the day, in this great land of ours. Since the eighties, it seems the situation gets worse than better, and likely to further deteriorate. We are, after all in the age of small print, loopholes and one sided contractual amendments. I would like to share with you how I deal when I get scammed, with a fair degree of success. Only use these tactics if you are right, though; if you are trying to scam the company, you are part of the problem too, so shame on you!!!
1) First of all, if at all possible, do everything in writing. Companies normally slack off if a matter is not put in writing, and you just get shifted from one person to the other. There is no accountability in phone conversations.
2) When you send your letters, do so by Certified Mail, with return receipt. If at all possible, discover the name of the CEO of the company, and send him/her a copy of it. Send a couple of copies of the letter by regular mail
3) As a matter of fact, companies increasingly seem to respond only to pressure. The more people you send your letter to (CFO, CEO, Chairman of the Board, myriad directors) the more likely you will find somebody in the company to take your side. You would be amazed how different departments view situations differently in the same company.
4) If you are unable to find addresses or names of responsible persons to address your mail, never limit yourself to speaking to a single individual in an organization (unless, of course, it is very small). Call at different times, and eventually you will find somebody who is willing to listen. Always get the person's name and extension. Do not waste your time if you sense the call is being answered overseas.
5) Don't limit yourself to call centers (phone numbers on bills, etc). Often the people that work there have no authority whatsoever to solve your problem. Discover where the company's head office is located, and contact it.
6) Don't be impressed with mentions of `policies`. I find it that Customer Service representatives often make these up as they go along, in fact, in a single conversation they can mention two opposing policies, to suit their argument.
7) Call everyday, until you get a resolution. Do not be nasty, or act illegally, for instance, in a harassing manner. Don't curse or yell, if speaking on the phone, don' make idle threats in writing. Send communications by fax, email, snail mail, all at the same time. The more you make a company work, the more likely they will be willing to settle the matter with you and get rid of you. Remember, the more you make them work, the more you are costing them.
8) Don't waste your time with the Better Business Bureau. They are unlikely to do anything for you.
9) Class action attorneys are also quite useless. They might use you to file a suit and you end up with less than what you claimed, while the attorneys get 1/3 of the whole settlement.
10) Remember to show intent. If a company sees you are serious about a matter, not willing to let it go, it will likely settle your claim. That is the tactic used by collection agencies to get you to pay a bill.
11) If worse comes to worse, contact your local TV station, which may have a program segment in which you can report scams. Document everything you possibly can, with dates and names.
By Carlos de Paula
Having been in business in New York for many years one is exposed and often, victimized by a number of scams. Anything from the “photocopy supply”scam, to the police fraternity cold calls, to fire extinguisher companies making believe they are fire department inspectors, to Nigerian Section 419 letters/faxes/emails. I am lucky to say I never fell for any of these, but I am not immune. I felt like a sucker for the following scam.
In September of 2002 I got a call from a Verizon representative who insisted on coming to my office to tell me how to save money on my Verizon bill. Having almost*been taken for a ride, at different levels, by the major telecoms, I have always been hesitant to discuss phone service saving schemes. I was blunt with the guy. I said that companies always want to extract more from clients, not have them pay less. That is what capitalism is all about. He told me the issue was technical, and that Verizon wanted everybody to go to their digital network.
Since the answer was technical, I believed it. So this guy comes to my office, with a companion, and starts to describe this Centrex service, telling me I would save, blah, blah. He had a Verizon nametag, all written material had Verizon’s logos all over it, so I had every reason to believe he was from Verizon. You know the story, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, it must be a duck!
I then remember signing a work order that looked just like the work order they make you sign when you order phone service. The guy told me the only inconvenience was that I would need to dial 9, before making any calls. I gave him ample chance to tell me everything about the service, including asking “Where’s the catch?”. The answer as “None”. After a couple of mishaps, the service was implemented.
As the economic situation got worse towards the end of 2002, and given the security situation around Penn Station, I decided to close the office in Manhattan, and consolidate my activities in the Queens location. Much to my dismay, I was told by Verizon that I would need to pay over $500 in disconnection charges, since I had signed up for an 85-month Verizon Centrex contract in September! Worse yet, the guy was not from Verizon, he was from an independent authorized agent.
Thus began an ordeal that lasted months. Initially I tried to solve it by phone. My arguments were several. Misrepresentation, for one thing. I was not told he was not from Verizon, on the phone or otherwise, and there was never any mention of long-term contracts, much less disconnection fees. I wrote several letters, and tried to contact the guy from the independent agent who signed me up. Guess what, he no longer worked for the company! Then I wrote them a letter, for which I got no reply. Days later, the company either no longer existed, or had changed names, according to Verizon. But they continued to be authorized independent agents.
Needless to say, Verizon kept, throughout the ordeal, sending me bills for the termination charges and threatening to cut off service on my existing lines, if the bill was not settled. At that particular point, I requested Verizon provide written proof that I had indeed entered into an 85-month contract, since I obviously had no paper work and never seen that term anywhere. They could not come up with it, there was no paper documentation.
I went as far as writing a letter to Verizon’s CEO, and got no response. The only action I got was a call from a woman who seemed to be in higher administration. At that point, since they seemed to believe the independent agent acted normally and rightfully, although misrepresenting even his own identity, I based the thrust of my defense on the fact that there was no written confirmation of an 85-month contract. At that point, I became dumbfounded when the woman told me there needn’t be one. In other words, the guy didn’t tell me, and I spite of that, and besides the lack of written proof, I was liable for it.
Granted the bill dropped a little bit, but the service was no better, in fact, it was worse. I also argued that I would be crazy to knowing enter into an 85-month contract (very long term, 7 years) given the current economic climate, and given my current situation (I had two locations). Not very sympathetically, the woman agreed to shift the Centrex service to my Queens location, as if she was doing me a big favor, at no additional charge, and that I would still be liable for the termination charges.
At this point I was very much tired of fighting with Verizon, and really considered it was not worth my time in financial terms. I had logged hours and hours trying to solve this debacle. I agreed with the proposal, but was not happy with it. The whole thing seems to be designed to make money on termination charges, as small businesses like mine rarely stay over 7 years in one location.
And indeed, I needed to move from that Queens location after all, and got hit with termination charges anyway, although not in the 500-dollar range.
Some lessons I learned, and hope to share with you. This, of course, is not legal advice, rather advice from a consumer:
a) don’t trust nametags or written paraphernalia. There is a lot of outsourcing going on, and the represented companies seem not to take responsibility for the actions of these outsourcers!
b) there is no such a thing as a free ride. No one is going to offer to lower your bills, unless facing a competitive situation - my bill did get lower, but Verizon more than made up for it with the termination charges.
c) don’t blindingly trust big companies.
d) avoid, as much as possible, to do business with cold callers
e) in any type of service, make a habit of asking about terms, and refuse to enter into a service if such terms are not explicitly laid out.
f) altogether, avoid changes to your phone service.
This one time I got taken for a ride...
By Carlos de Paula
Since this is not a vendetta against individuals, and my purpose is not to embarrass anyone, names of individuals will be omitted from this article.
On May 22, 2004 I went to Major World, at Northern Boulevard, Long Island City, to shop for a used car. I had a leased car that I had to return by June 6, 2004, and had no intention of keeping it, as the buy out far exceeded the car’s market value. Major World seemed a good bet, I had a couple of OK references, so I gave it a try. Upon getting there I was referred to a man who was supposedly a sales manager, and stated the type of car I wanted. At first he showed me cars in my range, which was 6 to 8K, but when I mentioned a station wagon, he tried a switch tactic on me. It almost worked. He showed a Volvo wagon that was beautiful, and before my asking ,dropped the price from 14K to 11K. Luckily for me, the car would not start on its own, and would readily die when jump-started. I kind of realized there was something wrong with it, the only explanation for the sudden 3K-drop in price. I told the “sales manager” to go back to my range.
After showing me a few cars, I ended up deciding on a 2001 Saturn, which seemed to be in good condition, except for a missing window sill trim. He readily told me I would have the windowsill trim on Monday (this was a Saturday).
We began negotiating, and I stated that first I would need to go to a Mitsubishi dealership to return the leased car. He then told me, matter of factly, that Major IS A MITSUBISHI dealership, and told me so three times. He told me all I needed to do was drop off the car right then and there. I would get no paper work, until Mitsubishi, the car company, took delivery of the car. Given the Mitsubishi logo prominently shown on business cards, I was naïve enough to trust the sales manager!
I did the deal and dropped of the car. The license plates were moved from the Mitsubishi to the Saturn, and I was told they would take care of everything else. I would get a temporary registration right on the car, and the permanent registration would be sent by mail, by the DMV. They collected the applicable fee. I was told the return to Mitsubishi would take place during the week after.
I should expect things to go sour when we called the week after, asking for the windowsill trim. Needless to say, they didn’t have it, and it is now October, and we still don’t have it. This was a minor detail, and I was not about to get worked up for a $50 part.
The plot thickened when, around the 15th of June, we got a very upset call from Mitsubishi Motors, asking about the car. They said the car was not returned, and that we were responsible for it. To the tune of $10,000, of course, the supposed buyout value of the car! When we told the Mitsubishi rep that the car was returned to Major, allegedly a Mitsubishi dealership, we were dealt with the stark reality that Major WAS NOT a Mitsubishi dealership. Thus started a war of nerves.
I wrote several letters in the course of the next few days, sent to Major World and Mitsubishi, and spoke several times to the “sales manager”. The latter kept on telling me “not to worry about it”, insisting they did this everyday and that indeed they were a Mitsubishi dealership, in spite of the manufacturer saying they were not. I could never get a straight answer from the ‘sales manager”, who failed time and again to tell me where the car was. I made several phone calls, sent many faxes during the course of the next few days, and was told by the Mitsubishi rep that I should consult a lawyer, as obviously, Mitsubishi’s property under my care had vanished. I then went back to the “sales manager” and told him that I would hold him personally liable for the car, and that this was not a commercial matter, rather, a criminal one. I threatened to go there with newscasts, the police etc. And the guy continued to tell me not to worry about it, that his was business as usual!
Eventually he started to get nasty, after a week of many calls. I refrained from going there in person, as my policy is to resolve things via the written word. The last thing I needed was to get into a verbal, or even physical confrontation with the dealership personnel.
Making a long story short, I finally learned that the car was not returned to Mitsubishi, as promised, but rather, it had been taken to an auction in Pennsylvania, without my permission or Mitsubishi’s. This I was told almost one month after the car was surrendered to Major. From this point on things get cloudy: apparently the car was sold at that auction, Mitsubishi got what it wanted, which was some money for a 4-year old vehicle with no market to speak of (it was not a SUV), and I was supposed to be happy and shut up.
I was obviously not satisfied with the outcome, both from Major and Mitsubishi’s part. The latter told me there was nothing they could do to prevent Major from saying they were an official Mitsubishi dealership, and that Major could continue to do so. As far as Major was concerned, they acted as if they were right all along, and that they had every right to misrepresent themselves. I was simply not up on things!
There is a saying that all is well that ends well, so I decided to put this behind me. Until I noticed that I was not getting the permanent registration for the car. Eventually it expired. I naively thought this must have been a screw-up by DMV in Albany, so we contacted DMV. Much to our amazement, we found that the license plates were still referring to the Mitsubishi, rather than the Saturn – in other words, the paper work had not been sent by Major to Albany, almost 2 months after the sale.
I regretted having to contact Major again, but had to do it, lest I would get hefty fines from driving around in an unlicensed car. I was shifted around from one person to the other, who admitted that the paperwork had not been submitted. I was told that since this was their fault, they would pay for any fines I would receive from driving around in an unlicensed vehicle (as if I would believe,at this point, they would indeed pay the fines!!!). I finally got a call from a guy with a conspiratory voice, who assured me HE was on top of things, and that I could pick up the registration by ‘x” day. Needless to say, it was not there, but admittedly it did arrive a couple of days later.
I never got the windowsill trim and have given up.
I learned a few lessons, and if there is anything we can do in this life, is try to help other people not to be victimized. So I wrote this article, not with the intent of messing up Major’s business, but rather to help you, the reader, make an educated choice. This, of course, is not legal advice, simply advice from a consumer, based on facts.
Here are the lessons:
1) Don’t even consider buying a car from Major. They use high pressure sales tactics (I almost fell for the Volvo estate) and do not fulfill even their simplest promises (the windowsill)
2) Major is a very disorganized company, in spite of myriad personnel walking about, like busybodies. For that alone, you should not trust them for a multiple thousand dollar transaction
3) If you lease a car, return it TO THE PLACE WHERE YOU LEASED IT FROM. Don’t even return it to another official dealership, because at that stage, you are garbage for the company that leased the car, and for the dealership. Always ask for documentation, even if they say that is not procedure.
4) Never trust logos on cards, signs or paperwork. Apparently dealerships can get away with showing these logos, without any sort of punishment.
5) Don’t base your opinion on one, two or three people. Try to get information from as many people as possible, and use the Internet for research. You will be surprised as to how much information you can find on the net.
Good luck and remember. Major World is a Major Headache.
By Carlos De Paula
You have probably received a message of the type “My name is Kabila Mutungi, I am the wife of former ruler of Sierra Kabungi, and I need a reputable person to deposit $25 million dollars in an offshore account, etc etc.”. If you have your email address published anywhere, and even if you don’t, you probably have received these messages.
You might be surprised to know that the so called Section 419 scam exists since the 80’s, way before the appearance of the commercial Internet. Initially, it involved snail mail, letters sent to international trade executives who were listed in trade directories, mostly coming from Nigeria. As technology progressed, the scammers began to use faxes, and now email. The scam also expanded internationally: besides Nigeria, messages come from a variety of African countries, and now from the Middle East as well (Iraq claims are very popular these days). Many provide phone numbers where you can call them!
You might be even more surprised to find out that tons of people have fallen for this scam, in several countries, some of them paying with death. I personally know somebody who traveled to Nigeria and left the country alive only after a few thousand dollars were paid (I don’t know how much). I also know of a supposedly sophisticated president of a trade association who was almost falling for this, in the early 90’s. And I personally met an over enthusiastic guy who wanted me to translate a response to one such letter, until I told him what this is about. Well, there is a sucker born every minute, isn’t there, just ask P.T. Barnum.
The problem is that since most proposals involve some type of illegal activity (such as “there are 30 million dollars in non-awarded funds in the tender budget”, an obvious deviation of public funds), an American citizen would be violating American law by seriously responding to such a message. He could get in trouble with the U.S. law, accused of participating in international corruption. So a lot of these cases don’t ever make the media.
In its most gruesome form, the fool is compelled to travel to the country alleged in the letter, and once there, he is held in captivity until paying up some moola! If no money appears, then the sucker disappears. As simple as that!
Another less lethal and remote form of the scam has emerged, in the last few years, where the respondent eventually provides details about his checking account (where the millions will be deposited!!!). The scamsters then manage to forge checks and withdraw monies from that account. Judging from the number of scam messages I am still getting, many people must still be responding to this.
Lately, the scam has evolved into “International Lottery awards” and philanthropic offers.
If you analyze closely the messages, you will notice that the vast majority of them originate from free email accounts, such as hotmail, gmail, yahoo, etc. The perpetrators of the crimes are likely not even in the countries where they claim to be writing from. Many of them might be in the USA, a few miles from you! These free email accounts have the advantage of being untraceable, and a single person can have a large number of accounts at any one time. One way to avoid this type of scam is to simply eradicate free mail accounts, which I kind of find a good idea. Obviously the major search engines, internet providers etc, will not like this, as free email is a major traffic magnet for them. However the eradication of free email would avoid a vast number of criminal activities on the internet, including sex related crime and harassment as well.
What can you do? First of all, don’t respond at all. If you do, even if you curse the person who sent you the message, they will continue to bother you and insist they are legit. Depending on how silly you are, you might actually get convinced!
There is something you can do if you want to help eradicate this. Send a copy of the message to the email provider in the form abuse@(provider).com, reporting the misuse. In many cases they act upon the report soon, and cancel the account, thus stopping the criminal dead on his tracks. And remember: there is no such a thing as a free ride.
If you have a website for business purposes you have probably been approached by phone or email by companies identifying themselves as SEO specialists. The term SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. These companies go as far as guaranteeing improving your site’s ranking in search engines, including google. You should consider a few things before actually hiring such a company. I will not go into technical issues in this article, I will rather limit to things you should be aware of before entertaining the idea of hiring such a company or using other search engine improvement techniques. I find that a Question/Answer format is more proper for such a blog.
HOW MANY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF SEARCH ENGINES ARE THERE?
If you see a company or software promising to boost up your ranking in hundreds of thousands of search engines, beware. THERE AREN’T HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF SEARCH ENGINES in the world. In fact, google has a very dominant position in the market these days, and there might be, at present time, another 40 search engines/search engine content providers of any importance in the world, and a few hundred that are totally irrelevant. many of them are fed by google, anyway. These companies are promising to get you listed in hundreds of thousands search engines which are in fact FFA sites, which might actually hurt your ranking.
CAN ANYBODY PROMISE TO IMPROVE MY RANKING?
First of all, it all depends on how poorly designed is your stationary site, and how much content does it really have. If it is very well designed, and content is presented in a clear manner, following some very basic principles, then an SEO company’s work is going to be much tougher. In certain cases, improving your ranking might involve techniques that will get your site delisted in google, for example. If you believe this does not happen, notice that BMW’s German site (bmw.de) was recently delisted by google (for a few days, though), due to alleged violations of google’s design parameters. In other words, search engines do not like techniques which purpose is “deceiving” search engines to boost ranking. And that is exactly what a lot of SEO companies do.
CAN ANYBODY PROMISE TO IMPROVE MY GOOGLE RANKING, TO A FIRST PAGE?
Again, it all depends on a number of issues. For instance, if your business consists of “repairing model car windshields”, it might be very easy to boost your ranking even to number 1, as this is such a low demand and specialized “business”. All it would take is including that text on your page heading and making sure that phrase is inserted a few (reasonable) times in the body of the page. However, if you are in the mortgage business, it will be borderline impossible: this is a high demand, expensive keyword, that has been around the commercial internet since day one. Using illegal techniques might get your site’s positioning slightly improved for a while, but then again, will likely result in its removal. SEO companies would like to tell you that they know all criteria used by google to rank sites, that they have insider information, but that is not true. Every search engine has different criteria, and it appears to me that a lot of the top ranking in certain (but not all) search engines is not done by robots, and do involve a human element. That is why in many search engines you get prominent, well known companies, organizations and associations listed at the top, and there is no “optimization” that will circumvent that.
Going back to google, since the company keeps its ranking criteria under such tight wraps, and allegedly changes it all the time, I find the “guarantee” to be mostly bogus. A halfway decent programmer will be able to boost the rankings of a site that does not have a clue, but most of what he/she will do can be done by the site owner himself, at no cost. Things such as reducing graphics on the page, keeping text visible, providing relevant page headers, providing content and trying to keep links updated.
WHAT CAN I DO AND WHAT CAN’T I DO TO IMPROVE MY RANKINGS?
Well, each search engine has their own policies, and they should be stated on the sites. Make sure you comply with them. And if you so hire an SEO, make sure they will not violate these policies, because the search engine will quick you out, not them!! And getting you relisted is a major deal!
HOW ABOUT THOSE TRAFFIC BUILDING SOFTWARE THAT CLAIM TO POST SITES TO HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF SEARCH ENGINES?
If you look closely, the software might list a couple of hundred search engines and directories, and the vast majority of the sites are FFA (Free for all). These are listing sites that no one visits, the majority of which have been kicked out of google eons ago. They list sites for free, for a very short while, replacing with new listings. Allegedly the reason why they exist is to obtain email addresses for spam campaigns. So if you do list your correct email in such a submission, all you might be getting is thousands of email messages trying to sell you Viagra or mortgage refinancing a day. Your email address will be just as good as dead. Remember: there aren’t thousands and thousands of search engines.
Worst yet, the FFA sites are considered by some search engines as “bad neighborhoods”. If they find you around these bad neighborhoods too much, you might actually be delisted by the site! That is why you have to be careful.
On the other hand, years ago I ran a trial of FFA submission, and honestly, all I got from the submission was 800 out of 166000 FFAs, and no business. Don’t get into what I call “traffic neurosis” . If you get one visit on your website in a day, and that visitor does business with you YOU ARE A WINNER! You got 100%. There is a lot of people doing all types of things to get tons of traffic (involving spending a lot of money) and no ROI.
Millions of people want to run web businesses that require shipment of some sort, so you better read on. There are certain things you should know about shipments and shipping companies that will likely save you some trouble, headache and perhaps, money. The shipping companies you see on the TV commercials, always helpful, going beyond the call of duty to accommodate the humblest of clients only exist on TV screens.
I recently had to send a next day shipment from Florida to New York. The tricky part was that it needed to be in the location in the afternoon, as nobody would be available in he location in the morning. These were time sensitive documents that needed to be in the client’s hands the next day, otherwise I would lose business. So I went to the UPS website and chose their UPS Next Day Air Saver, which is promoted as Choose this guaranteed next-day service when afternoon delivery meets your needs.
That to me means that delivery is guaranteed for the afternoon, the next day. Not so. I suppose for UPS afternoon can also mean A.M.
Luckily the consequences were not disastrous, but I did lose business. UPS went to deliver the package at 9:30 A.M., when there was no one at the location to accept the envelope. And they did not return that same day to complete the guaranteed delivery by the afternoon. The Next Day became a 2nd Day Delivery!
We are all humans, and companies are run by humans, so I can accept mistakes. However, insisting that one has not committed a mistake, when it has been clearly made, is bad news. When I got the bill from UPS, I called to complain that first of all, I was being charged for shipping in a regular envelope, when I did use a UPS provided NEXT DAY envelope (yes, UPS does charge more if you ship anything next day on your own envelope, another thing you should know) and to complain that the UPS site was misleading in its definition of the service.
After speaking to two representatives, one of which was of no help, and the other was helpful, I finally got the promise of a deduction. It was agreed I would pay the rate for ground shipment. So I thought.
My argument was simple. The UPS site identified UPS Next Day Air Saver as a service to be used for afternoon deliveries. Check it out for yourself (click here). The second (helpful) customer service representative, pointed out that in the terms of service it did mention that UPS reserved the right to deliver next Day Saver’s in the morning. Supposedly that link was at the very bottom of the page, quite subdued. My argument was that is not what was implied (almost explicitly stated) on the definition of the service, which said Choose this guaranteed next-day service when afternoon delivery meets your needs. Maybe to get me off the phone, the rep agreed with me and promised the deduction.
Much to my surprise, I neither got the promised deduction, downgrading the shipment to ground delivery, or the deduction due to the fact that we had used UPS packaging and were being charged otherwise.
Adding insult to injury, eventually my account was cancelled, and only reinstated after I agreed to pay a “penalty” and the bogus charges.
So here it is. At least for UPS, afternoon means at least from 9:30 AM on. Learn this. Promising deductions means you might get it, you might not. So beware what you promise your clients. Make sure they understand that shipment liability lies with the shipping company and never make any promises you cannot keep. And remember never to rely one hundred percent on promotional text. GET BETTER GLASSES AND READ THE SMALL PRINT.
What in the world is an Idearc, you might ask. Glad you asked. Well, if you had an advertisement in a Verizon phone directory, you know, or will soon know what Idearc is. It is the old Verizon phone directory division, renamed.
Back when I started in business, a good 25 years ago, there were less gimmicks around. If you ever advertised somewhere, you determined a set in stone period for your advertisement, and if that was to be renewed, then you advised the magazine, newspaper, or wherever you were advertising that you wanted to run the piece longer. They would call you for that purpose. If you did not tell them to do so, it was implied that you no longer wanted to be an advertiser.
Things do not quite work that way with Idearc. Sure, the world is much different than 25 years ago. Today credit card companies offer you a 0% APR, and maybe 12 months later you are paying 30%. All on the account of size 2 font addendums sent with your credit card, hidden in the midst of offers for magazines, travel clubs or other stuff you never want and throw out. So, in this world of very fine print and gimmicks galore, major corporations behavior is anything but fine.
With Idearc you got to realize that if you do not tell them you want out, they will keep on billing you forever. It is the opposite of the way it used to be when you advertised somewhere!!! Plus, depending on who you speak to in the company, you have to notify cancellation of ads and listings in writing, a verbal notice won't do. If you get a call from Idearc about an ad or listing, and you tell them you no longer want to run it, beware. The guy is just calling to see if he can get more money out of you, not to tell you that cancellations have to be done in writing. The bills might keep on coming and piling up.
There is something else you have to be aware of. According to a few personnel from the company, anybody that gets on the phone from your end, is willing to talk to Idearc, and approves an ad, apparently is construed to have authority to do so. At least that is what three people representing the company told me. Therefore, if you have a disgruntled employee, who is leaving the company, answers the phone, and maliciously approves a $5,000.00 ad you meant to cancel, well, guess what, you will be stuck with the bill. To them this is binding agreement. I am not interpreting. Idearc representatives told me so.
Do not attempt to call any numbers on the bills. They lead to unending phone menus that will only get you upset, and you are never able to speak to any one. Should you really need a human being to take up any such issues, call the regular line 972-453-7000, and demand to speak to somebody, otherwise you will be referred to the useless toll-free phone lines. And be ready for a lot of discussion...
Artigos de autoria de Carlos de Paula, tradutor, escritor e historiador de automobilismo baseado em Miami. Articles written by Carlos de Paula, translator, writer and auto racing historian based in Miami.
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